I am sending my son to the local Romp n’ Roll for a “winter camp” which means for two mornings this week he has summer camp. Now my son LOVED summer camp here. Head over heels. Our nickname for it is the “fun place.” And knowing my son doesn’t transition well (especially after the shine wears off), I’ve been talking up the winter camp all weekend. And it works. Drop-off is unbelievably easy. Even when he realizes that I’m not coming into the gym with him, he rolls with it. At noon, I arrive playing on my iPhone with my friend sitting in the car with the sleeping baby, and I wait. And wait. And wait. And moms who have come in after me tote their agreeable and slightly sleepy children home. So I stand up. Maybe they forgot about me?
Hello? I say sheepishly.
The nice counselor: Uh, hi! E doesn’t want to go yet.
Trying to play it cool: Oh, that’s normal. (Because he did sometimes do that at summer camp. Sometimes.)
But now there are less kids than staff and it’s becoming apparent that someone is going to have use physical force to get E to come to his MOTHER.
Hence, a thrashing and yelling E is handed to me: I don't WANT to go home!
I grit my teeth and say: It’s okay E. Calm down. Take big breaths. And I bear hug him so he doesn’t run further into the gym.
After a few minutes, he doesn’t so much calm down as choose a different tactic: I want water.
Okay! (Because the water is in the lobby so it’s at least NEAR the door. Sometimes once he KNOWS we are clearly going, he goes.)
But today the fight is over EVERY suggestion I make. He wants what he wants and it’s EXACTLY the OPPOSITE of what I want. And if I agree with him? He wants the opposite of THAT -- which clearly brings us back to my original suggestion. However, if I attempt to enact this suggestion, he’s back to the opposite AGAIN. (And if you’re still following this discussion, you have a preschooler or you are a preschooler and a genius one who can read!). Finally, I just pack up everything including the last shreds of my dignity and carry him shoeless to the car while he screams: I WANT MY CROCS ON.
I won’t bore you with the details of explaining why he’s not wearing Crocs (he refused to put them on multiple times) and why we have to go home (we need to eat lunch. oh yeah, and camp is OVER.). I’ll just move on to the SHEER MORTIFICATION of the situation. I instinctively scoff at my elastic waistband pants and dirty kitchen at the mere THOUGHT of all the moms in the Romp n’ Roll lobby hugging their smiley children. A good one-third of those kids seem genuinely happy to see their parents and the rest were at least quiet and obedient in their exhausted stupor. And then there was E. (Sad face.)
I remind myself not to take it personally. He woke up at 5 a.m.. He isn’t great with transitions (have I mentioned that yet?). He really LOVES camp. (Now we’re reaching.)
I tell my friend on the car ride home that this is why I always stop and give the knowing smile and often the been-there-eyebrows-and-nod to any parent with a tantrum-ing child because I WANT THEM TO DO THAT FOR ME!!! Oh and I hope that it helps them maintain a little dignity as well.
I desperately wanted to announce to the lobby-waiting-moms:
- This is the same child who at 5 a.m. wanted to see me EVERY ten minutes this morning no matter how sleepy I looked and how little sun (NONE) was up.
- This is the same child who opened his first Christmas present this year and said “Thank you so much for the box!” with genuine gratitude.
- This is the same child who is still opening his gifts from friends, family and Santa because, after three gifts, he felt like he had enough and went off to play. (I’m pretty sure he and I are related but this incident brings up some questions.)
He really is so sweet. He reads books to his toy trains and then asks if they want to snuggle. He hugs and kisses and runs and sings and loves the heck out of his sister and us.
But this afternoon he was completely overwhelmed with the idea of change. (Making him clearly related to my husband.) And he was completely overcome with his emotions. (Making him clearly related to me). Luckily, both of us (the adults) have grown a LOT in these areas. So we have tools to help him. We take big breaths. We don’t yell. We are patient and kind even when we want to have a tantrum right along with him. (Let’s not forget that I’ve been up since 5 a.m. as well.) One of the books that we read together almost daily is Peaceful Piggy Meditation. (P.S. The author doesn’t know that I wrote that. Although I should let her know since I’ve bought the book for every other kid we know and even suggested it to a few adult friends. Who wouldn’t want what those piggies have?)
I’m taking my big breaths, too, because I’m sure that we will have more mortifying tantrums before my sweet boy turns eighteen. And I’m pretty sure my prayer tonight will go a little something like this:
Dear God, Please let E cooperate at pick-up. If that can’t be, please let him freak out at drop-off instead so all the moms can see that it’s a transition problem and not a mom or home problem. And if that can’t be, please let another kid freak out with him. I promise to give her that knowing smile as we haul, side-by-side, our psychotic children off to their horrible homes through the throngs of happy, well-adjusting campers. Amen.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see how the comments on this blog post go.
This post is written by Alex Iwashyna, a happily married mom with a BA in Philosophy and a Medical Degree and the drive to become neither. She is hopeful this writing thing pans out. Follow her rants on twitter.com/failebg but be prepared for baby poop and liberal bias.